9 Ways You Might Be Sharing in the Sins of Others

“Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them...” (CCC 1868)

Giotto di Bondone, ‘The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas)’, ca. 1305
Giotto di Bondone, ‘The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas)’, ca. 1305 (photo: Register Files)

Did you know that you can be held responsible for the sins committed by others when you cooperate in them?

Upset? Frightened? Perhaps you should be.

Apparently, there are nine, count-them-nine, ways to sin without actually putting pedal-to-the-metal, as it were. So, before you rev up your engines and do wheelies in the church parking lot thinking you're in the clear, sacramentally-speaking, check out this ancient list of meta-sins that are just as bad as the sins themselves:

1. By counsel (“You should steal from him.”)

This one is clear-cut. I don’t think anyone could ever think that urging someone into sin wouldn't just simply explode in his face. If you shouldn't commit sin X, then it follows, like night follows the day, that you shouldn't recommend that same sin to others. And yet, the Church needs to point this one out every now and again.

2. By command (“You have to steal from him.”)

"Well, Officer…as you can see, I really had to do it…" As St. Dominic Salvio reminds us, "Anything but sin!" It's a good bit of advice at this juncture.

3. By consent (“You're going to steal something? Great idea!”)

Urging someone to sin, even if you and the perspective sinner agree it's a “great idea” to do so (i.e., to right a wrong, etc.,) is always a bad idea. Always. I don't mean sometimes or if you look at the situation in the proper light. I mean really: it's a really, really bad idea.

4. By provocation (“I bet you can't steal that!”)

Playing off someone's pride and foolishness is, similarly a bad idea. You call the sin upon your own head if you were to do that. Imagine your defense when you stand before God's throne at your Judgment. "Well…I didn't think he'd actually do it!"

5. By praise or flattery (“That was so cool the way you stole that!”)

We've all fallen in to this one from time to time when we praise someone who's “said/did what [we] couldn't.” Nope. Sorry. By any other name, a sin is a sin is a sin. It should be an obvious clue to you that if you wouldn't want to do something bad, you should then avoid urging someone else to do the same exact thing.

6. By concealment (“Don't worry…I won't tell anyone you stole it.”)

Ha! This is a great one. Promises like this are worthless and always blow up in your face but, regardless, you shouldn't assure someone of your compliancy in a conspiracy of sinful acts. Consider exactly Who is listening when you make a promise like this and get thee to a confessional quick smart!

7. By partaking (“I'll give you a hand stealing it.”)

This one is also a no-brainer. Yes… if you are conspiring in a sin, you are the sinner. This also means buying fenced goods from a disreputable source. If someone is selling you top-of-the-line products at low! low! low! bargain basement prices, chances are it's not because of a fire sale but rather a felonious act.

8. By silence (“I know you stole it, but I won't tell anyone.”)

Covering up for someone's sin is a sin also. If not, why exactly did God give us the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If it is wrong for someone to engage in sin X, then it's wrong for us to acquiesce to or silently condone that sin. There is no compassion in helping a sinner to sin. Help him instead to feed the homeless―it'll get you farther, spiritually speaking.

9. By defense of the sinful action (“He deserved to have it stolen.”)

When you defend the indefensible, you are actually sinning no matter how much the target of your displeasure supposedly “deserves it.” You're not God and, frankly, He's doing a great job as it is and doesn't need your help in separating the sheep and goats. But, either way, you're assuring yourself an eternity with the goats and the Infernal Goatherd if you're not careful. (Mt 25:31-46)


Don't Be Lukewarm

Sin isn't a black-and-white thing. Or, should I say, it is a black-and-white thing but a lot of the gray area in between can be just as sinful as well. Let the Golden Rule be your guide―it's the reason Jesus gave it to us in the first place (Mt 7:12, see also Lk 6:31). If you wouldn't mind others egging your enemies on to do horrible things to you, why would you think Jesus is kosher with allowing you to do it to others?

Most of us won't be in situations in which we will recommend grand theft auto to our love ones, but the above understanding of the insidious nature of sin gives renewed meaning and urgency for those who believe “abortion is a bad thing but I don't want to force someone not to have access to an abortion.”

In such situations, Jesus reminds us, “I know what you have done; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other! But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of My mouth!” (Rev 3:15-16)

He reminds us of this for the sake of our salvation. Good and evil exist in the world. God's nature as Love Itself informs us of what is good. Evil exists when we live in contradiction to God's nature.